But now shrinks the place where you stand: Where now, stripped by shade, will you go? — Paul Celan

Staying Back

Faraaz Hossain (centre) with his friends.

The Bangladeshi psyche is a moral and political waste land today. In this dizzying and disorienting kaleidoscope of decay, one name shines more brightly than anyone else today: Faraaz. His simple act of standing by his friends, a spontaneous and unpremeditated act, a lightness that annuls the heavy and dark morass that his killers wanted to impose on countless lives. It is Faraaz who redeems us today, no one else.

We have put Faraaz on the pedestal of immortality today but let us be clear: Faraaz didn’t stay because he wanted immortality. True heroes never do anything from considerations of immortality or fame. They do what they’ve always done: they do the decent human thing when everyone else forgets what is decent and human.

Faraaz stayed because he loved his friends. Friendship and love are values greater than any canonical notion of eternity. In fact, friendship and love are the only eternity.

Ever since the attack in Gulshan happened I have been thinking of these lines by T.S. Eliot from his poem ‘The Waste Land,’ which continues to be an apposite parable for our time even a century after it was written:

‘[W]hat have we given?
My friend, blood shaking my heart
The awful daring of a moment’s surrender
Which an age of prudence can never retract
By this, and this only, we have existed’

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